Ukraine tightens its grip: Kiev awaits the attack

Of Lorenzo Cremonesi

Putin’s army moves to surround the capital. The very long convoy of armored vehicles and troop transport, which remained in columns and stopped for days, began to scatter in the forests around the metropolis

KIEV – The circle of the Russian army tightens on the Ukrainian capital. A massive iron and fire pincers: artillery, mortars, Grad missiles of various types, patrols of selected troops are positioning themselves a few kilometers from the city center, and from afar, across the border into Russian and Belarusian territory, ballistic missiles are ready to weaken the will of the Ukrainian partisan resistance, in the case of the conventional army Russian should fail. And if the situation does not unlock in favor of the attackers, then Putin is even considering the option of chemical weapons. The president Zelensky he remains determined to publicly declare his will to fight without fear, but certainly here among his soldiers and the remaining civilian population, no one minimizes the threat. It would be a gigantic massacre if Putin were to use chemical weapons. Heavy gases could penetrate bunkers, cellars, lethally descend into subway tunnels where tens of thousands of people camp out. There is a lack of masks and suits to protect us from unconventional weapons, we are totally exposed. Even hospitals are not at all equipped for this eventuality. We will be torn by the dilemma of whether to go underground to escape the bombs, or to go to the upper floors more exposed to explosions, but less subject to the effects of the gas.a paramedic in charge of the ambulances stationed near the passage told us in the afternoon displaced from the town of Irpin.

Yesterday morning the capital woke up with the bad news that something dangerous was happening in the northern sector of the northern neighborhoods. The satellites show images of the tanks and vehicles of the great Russian convoy dispersing through the villages and forests. The artillery is positioned to take action, Ukrainian media and social media explained. the move that precedes the attack. It was talked about as an impending threat since the last days of February, when a massive army with almost 100,000 soldiers and thousands of vehicles of all kinds had headed to the capital from Belarus, passing through Chernobyl.

The failure

It had been the consequence of the failure of Putin’s original plan
, who had hoped to take Kiev in a few hours already on the morning of February 24, launching an agile and lethal blitz of the flower of his airborne troops, which were supposed to take the Hostomel airport and then break into the heart of the capital. For at least two weeks the Russians have thus adopted the traditional strategies of the slow and progressive advances thanks to their clear superiority of men and means.
But the Ukrainian reaction since then has been efficient and courageous. The convoy was hit by drones, anti-tank missiles, Molotov cocktails of Ukrainian leather heads. The images of the Russian tanks on fire in the streets clogged with vehicles are going around the world, a sort of pigeon shooting that raises the morale of the Ukrainians.

Hence the relevance of the new Russian movements. Satellite images show the tanks leaving the main roads to disperse in villages from Hostomel to Bucha, Irpin, Makariv and further down to Vishneve on the western outskirts of the capital. From the east, Russian columns are also arriving from Kharkiv and Sumy, their vanguards have reached the forests of the village of Brovary (where two days ago the Ukrainians destroyed about twenty tanks). At this rate, the Pentagon estimates that the encirclement could close in the south within two weeks with the arrival of the columns arriving from Dnipro (at which point the railroad escape route should also close) and that the Russian tanks could perhaps conquer the central Maidan square (the very symbol of Ukrainian independence) by early May.

However, the war always made up of unexpected twists and turns. After the serious information of the morning, yesterday evening again from the Pentagon they reported that the Russian movements in the afternoon had slowed down. Their avant-garde from the north did not come conspicuously close to Kiev, rather the dispersion between forests and villages appears to be motivated by the desire to hide from Ukrainian drone attacks, they observed.

Fortifications in the city

Meanwhile, the capital continues to fortify itself. A long car ride yesterday in the middle of the day allowed us to visit the eastern districts, beyond the bridges over the Dnieper, where life is much more normal than in the western parts, where the historic center and the government buildings are located. It seems that the great majority of the displaced (about half of its four million inhabitants) left from the center. Military and territorial defense volunteers carefully check documents at checkpoints. Everywhere trenches are dug and nests of resistance are built. Major roads, including accesses to bridges, can quickly be blocked with disused vehicles and iron bars.

Advanced in the South

Supporting the Ukrainians’ will to resist are the weapons that are now coming in large numbers to help: the most massive chain of military dispatches from Western Europe since the end of the Cold War three decades ago. From London they confirm the dispatch of 3,615 NLAW anti-tank missiles, which will soon be joined by Javelin missiles, which the Ukrainians already know how to handle. In turn, Denmark brought in 2,700 anti-tank weapons and another 7,000 from Norway and Sweden. Ukrainian commands point out that there is a risk that Russian missiles could try to paralyze the routes of arms passage from Poland.
The Russian advance in the south has already blocked the large ports on the Black Sea and especially that of Mariupol. Transit through Odessa is becoming almost impossible. However, it is not yet clear how much foreign volunteers can weigh in the dynamics of the conflict. A few thousand British, American and French have already been recruited from NATO countries. Putin declares his intention to send fighters from the Middle East, especially Syrians.

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